Frank J. Bender

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lieutenant Frank John Bender for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as the pilot of a jet attack aircraft while attached to and serving with Attack Squadron TWENTY-THREE, embarked in USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) on 19 January 1967.  Flying an A4E aircraft, Lieutenant Bender was the wingman in a two plane section assigned to counter the surface-to-air missile threat during a major Air Wing strike against the railroad and highway bridge complex at Dong Phong Thuong in North Vietnam.  Shortly after arriving in the target area, he saw two missiles lift off and head for the aircraft in the strike group.  Realizing that his leader was not in position to counter this immediate threat, Lieutenant Bender aggressively brought his aircraft to bear on this critical missile site and launched his air-to-surface missile.  He then followed the section leader in on a bombing attack and with extraordinary accuracy delivered all his bombs on the site.  In the following 15 minutes, three other missile sites fired over nine additional missiles toward the A4E section.  With superb flying skill and brilliant inter-section teamwork, he successfully evaded each one.  At one point he saved his leader from being hit by a missile by transmitting a frantic “Break” command.  That none of the attack aircraft were damaged by any of the missiles was directly attributed to his magnificent performance, his complete disregard for his own personal safety and determined devotion to duty. Lieutenant Bender’s heroic actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.